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King Crimson - In The Wake Of Poseidon CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.83 | 2040 ratings

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4 stars Poor Robert Fripp. Frankly, I wouldn't wish the circumstances surrounding this album upon my worst enemy. When a band has a debut that's such a critical and commercial smash as was Court, it's only natural that expectations be sky high for the sequel. Unfortunately, the band hit a little snag along the way to this album - Ian McDonald, the man who was THE creative force of the debut, left. Fripp took over the mellotron duties, and he brought in one Mel Collins to contribute woodwind parts, but that couldn't cover up the loss of the man who both guided the direction and penned most of the melodies. To make matters worse, Greg Lake then announced that HE was leaving the band to join ELP, and while he agreed to contribute vocals (the bass parts were done by Peter Giles), he also made no contribution to the songwriting (a pity, since he soon showed in ELP that he had a strong talent for creating interesting chord sequences).

So Fripp took over the songwriting duties, almost by default. Unfortunately, he had another major problem to face - I get the strong feeling that Fripp feared that, along with the loss of the main songwriter, a change in direction could prove fatal for both the band's ability to keep fans and to maintain critical respect. As a result, he panicked more than a bit - the first side of this album, by and large, is a direct remake of the first side of Court, and that fact alone seemingly drives some fans away to this day. As an aside, I also get the feeling that Fripp's near maniacal refusal to live in the past that has characterized most King Crimson through the 70's, 80's and 90's is a direct factor of adamently refusing to make a "copying mistake" that even remotely resembles what happened between this and Court. But I digress.

You see, remake or no, this is still a high quality effort. Comparisons with the debut are only natural, and in the end this album is worse in some ways than Court, but better in others. The drawbacks, other than the remake factor, are basically the following: first, strewn throughout the album are three "Peace" songs, with mostly a capella Lake vocals singing some really stupid and really pretentious lyrics. Second, Sinfield's lyrics have taken a major dip in quality from Court (with the exception of one track) - they're as bombastic as ever, but now there are no cleverly ear-catching lines that make them stand out in any good way. Lake does his best to make them work, and he sometimes succeeds, but overall it's hard not to fidget at times.

On the good side: No "Moonchild!" The album also boasts better production than its predecessor - the mellotrons are grander and more awe-inspiring than ever, and everything else just seems to have more punch and vigor. The second side also has a couple of great tracks the likes of which were DEFINITELY not found on Court. First, there's "Cat Food" (which I guess is a leftover from the first album sessions - McDonald has a writing credit), a dissonant-piano-driven proto-New-Wave piece that was picked as the advance single for some reason or another. The lyrics are actually funny for once, the melody is catchy in its own way, and Lake's screams do a great job of making it work. Following that is something completely different - the three-part "The Devil's Triangle," an adapation of Gustav Holst's "Mars The Bringer of War," which had been part of their stage set for quite some time (McDonald has a writing credit here, in the first part). True to the form of the original, the first couple of minutes are a very slow, very intense crescendo with some bits of mellotron here and there, but later it turns into a creepy noisefest with all sorts of eerie keyboard parts moving up and down and side to side, and even a brief quote from the last album's title track. It be neat, yes it be.

Ah, but there's still the issue of the first side, the Court-ripoff. Well, let's be frank - ripoff or no, it's GOOD. The songs may be very stylistically similar to their corresponding tracks on Court, but they're hardly direct ripoffs, and they're definitely performed well. "Pictures of a City" is a great, great sequel to "Schizoid Man" (oddly enough, though, it was performed in the same shows as "Schizoid Man" as early as 1969) - it features the same kind of structure as that track, but there are plenty of differences. The general feel is much jazzier, as the main riff of the track has enough to amply satisfy both rock and jazz lovers fully. It has the same "Lake screams over a booming rhythm track" motif in the verses, yes, but never mind that - the jam in the middle of the track is both better produced and more complex (with another bunch of great Fripp solos) than the "Schizoid" jam, and overall I have trouble seeing how somebody who loved "Schizoid" could hate this (well, except for the fact that the lyrics on this one can't hold a candle to those of "Schizoid").

Next up is the "I Talk to the Wind" match, the lovely poppy "Cadence and Cascade." For this one, the band actually brought in one Gordon Haskell to sing the vocals, and first time I heard it, I didn't even know it wasn't necessarily Lake himself. I'd say the melody is even prettier than the one to "Wind," and the piano/acoustic arrangement could easily be appreciated by somebody who hated "Wind" on general principle. Of course, once again, the lyrics blow chunks, but that's been covered.

Then there's the title track, the "Epitaph" clone. The lyrics are a good deal worse, yet Lake delivers another amazing vocal performance, one that allows me to focus on the sound of his voice and ignore the lyrics. As for the melody, it's much the same as before, but there are a couple of moments of catharsis in the chord sequences that even "Epitaph" struggled to match. Add in that the mellotrons are (as mentioned earlier) much louder, and that the lengthy fadeout gives a genuine epic symphonic feel not really found elsewhere in the world of rock music, and you have a track that, while not exceeding "Epitaph," at least makes a good run at matching it.

And that's your followup. It has its problems, but it's definitely not a huge stepdown from Court (it's pretty close to a *****, if you ask me), and Fripp should be given plenty of credit for that. And if you have more doubts about the quality of the album, know this - my brother, whose favorite band is KC, now feels that Court is the worst Crimson album barring Lizard, yet he digs this album. Go figure.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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